Originally published at www.evangelicalcatholic.org
Many of us are already familiar with Pope Francis’ words on the Church being “a field hospital,” but how many of us are able to take that quote literally? Austin Verrett, a pharmacist at a hospital in Louisiana, was inspired to bring Jesus into his workplace after receiving mission training from the Evangelical Catholic. He is making his workplace a space for both physical and spiritual healing.
Austin was just your typical parishioner: raised Catholic, received all his sacraments, and went to Mass every Sunday. He was enjoying his family, his career, and his social groups. Everything in his life seemed to be in place. But two years ago, Austin began suffering from medical issues and was facing recovery time that could last from six months to a year.
He was disheartened by the prognosis but didn’t know what to do about it. Soon after, Austin began experiencing “miraculous recovery time” – he recovered from his issue in six weeks instead of six months. He learned later that Masses had been offered for his recovery, and his pastor, Fr. Nathan Long, had been a large proponent of interceding in prayer for Austin’s health.
“After my recovery, I was full of so much energy, zeal, and this sense of reckless abandon,” Austin shared. “I didn’t know what to do with it. So when Fr. Long approached me to join the mission training, I was really moved by his invitation. I had never seen myself as a leader and I had never even participated in a small group, but God’s timing was perfect.”
The mission training proved to be a fruitful experience for Austin and led him to shift his perspective about sharing his faith with others. “In high school, I thought stuff like [what I learned in mission training] was lame,” Austin laughs, “but when I heard these real people sharing real and oftentimes raw ways in which the Holy Spirit was working in their lives, I was really moved.”
Mission training taught Austin and the others in his group how to discern a personal apostolate – the particular people and unique situations in his life who God was calling him to reach out to. Discerning his personal apostolate was the exact challenge that Austin needed. With his renewed energy and new paradigm about evangelization, he felt that God was going to show up. At the advice of Fr. Long, Austin launched a small group with his coworkers at the hospital. He wasn’t sure how his invitations would be received—most of his coworkers weren’t Catholic, and his workplace wasn’t the most open environment for discussions of Faith.
He was amazed at the spiritual fruit that came from the simple six-week gatherings. Coworkers began approaching Austin with questions of Faith. Many began asking him when they would meet again, some even wanting to branch off and host their own groups. One atheist coworker who had been curious about Austin’s small group witnessed a patient’s last rites, with Austin accompanying them to explain the Sacrament.
“It’s amazing to me how the Holy Spirit opened up the environment around Faith at work,” Austin says. He is witnessing more of his peers openly discussing Faith and praying with each other. And he’s excited to be hosting another upcoming small group at the enthusiastic request of his coworkers.
By following God’s lead and looking for a place where he was uniquely positioned to invite others to explore Faith, Austin is witnessing God’s Kingdom breaking through in new spaces and with new people in his life.